Atmosphere ‘definitely weird’ at Ohio Stadium with limited attendance

Buckeyes open the season with 52-17 victory against Nebraska

Thousands of fan cutouts filled the seats at Ohio Stadium on Saturday. Hundreds of real fans filled the seats, too. However, it was a mostly empty stadium on opening day for the Ohio State Buckeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers — and it likely will be that way all season.

The coronavirus pandemic pushed the start of the season back seven weeks for the Big Ten and also resulted in the conference limiting attendance to family members. It was a far different atmosphere from any previous game at the 98-year-old home of the Buckeyes.

“It was definitely weird,” Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields said. “I was looking at the stands to celebrate with some fans, but nobody was out there. Of course, it was a little bit different. We just tried to bring our own energy to the game. I think we handled it well.”

“It was a little bit weird,” offensive lineman Wyatt Davis said, “but you’re so locked in, we didn’t really notice it. We went into this knowing what it was going to be like. Those scrimmages we had without fans really helped us today to prepare us for the atmosphere. It didn’t bother me at all.”

The Buckeyes still ran out of the tunnel before the game as fireworks exploded on each side of them. They also sang “Carmen Ohio” after the 52-17 victory.

Everything else about the game-day experience was different. There were no cheerleaders. There was no band. Brutus Buckeye couldn’t even get a sideline pass. There were many few people on the sidelines. There were photographers in the stands, but credentials were limited for the media.

Explore» PHOTOS: Fan cutouts in the stands

“I’m not going to tell you it’s as much fun,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said. “It’s not. When that place is rocking, that’s where you want to be. I miss that. I think our players missed it. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

In some ways, the lack of crowd noise made things easier for the players.

“There’s definitely a sense of calmness around us,” Fields said. “That made it easier for the offense to communicate with each other and get the calls out.”

Injury update: Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave, who caught six passes for 104 yards, left the game after a hard hit in the second half. Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Olave seemed OK after the game.

“He was in good spirits,” Day said. “He had a good look in his eye. That’s all I really know at this point.”

Final touchdown: Ohio State freshman quarterback Jack Miller scored on a 2-yard run with 18 seconds left in the game. Day said he wished Ohio State had knelt on the ball at that point and apologized to Nebraska coach Scott Frost.

Cheering section: The family of Miamisburg High School graduate Josh Myers, including his parents Brad and Julie, waited in a short line outside Ohio Stadium about 90 minutes before kickoff.

“This is a miracle that we’re here today,” Julie said. “We’re so excited. We can’t even tell you how excited we are.”

Myers earned the starting center job for the first time last season. He was named to the All-Big Ten second team. He’s now a redshirt junior.

“He was really excited to improve from last year,” Julie said. “He really just wants to win a national championship.”

For Julie, it was the first chance to see her son in person, even if it was at a distance, in two months. Josh won’t get to come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas either because of the strict quarantine rules as the Buckeyes hope to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak that has resulted in cancellations and postponements of a handful of games each week this season.

The family has designed call nights where they speak to Josh on Facetime.

“He’s so busy,” Julie said. “It’s all worth it for him to follow his dreams.”

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